Some topics of real concerns regarding the oceans and fisheries were raised in the “documentary,” but unfortunately the entire piece was filled with sensationalistic journalism, not backed by real science. The data on which the filmmaker based his shocking claims was either dated, over-exagerated, or just plain made up. The “experts” referenced in the film were extremists, whose data is borderline quackery…
I can’t speak to every subject that was touched on in the piece, but as a biologist that worked nearly 10 years in marine aquaculture, and a veteran of over 30 years in the fresh tuna business, many of those years working specifically with bluefin tuna, there are a few glaring “facts” that were brought up that need to be clarified:
“A bluefin tuna is sold for 3 MILLION dollars in Japan.” Time and time again the “million dollar tuna” is publicized, promoting the MYTH that bluefin tuna are being fished out of our world’s oceans by greedy Japanese fishermen…it’s stereotyping and insulting.
For the record, ONE bluefin tuna, ONE day of the year--January 1st, is ceremoniously “bid up” in the Tokyo fish auction to an outrageous price. In Japanese culture the New Year is the most important holiday of the year. The reasoning behind this tradition is that “if the first tuna of the year is sold for a high price, we’ll have high prices for the rest of the year,” and sets the tone for the rest of the year. Similarly, in Japanese households, they put out the best spread of food on the New Year (eat well on the 1st, eat well the rest of the year...). BUT unfortunately over and over again this cool tradition of pricing the New Year’s “chosen” bluefin tuna is distorted and extrapolated by groups with an agenda against fishing, and frankly—against Asians.
“Bluefin tuna have been fished to near extinction, and are at only 3% of their natural capacity.” This is misleading and OLD NEWS. In truth, the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks worldwide has become a fisheries success story.
The latest news from the International Scientific Committee, (ISC) the world’s premier authority on tuna fisheries, at the current rate of recovery, the 2020 stock assessment of Northern Pacific Bluefin:
Also, to be accurate, the 3% mentioned in the piece refers to the *Spawning Stock Biomass, or SSB, which represent adult individuals that can mate, reproduce, and create offspring for future generations. It does NOT represent the total biomass of bluefin tuna in the ocean. As a reference, scientists consider a 20% SSB as a healthy benchmark, a sustainable makeup of spawning age adults among the total biomass by which many of the commercial tuna species such as yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, bigeye tuna, and bluefin tuna are measured.
In any case, within my circle of knowledge and expertise, the filmmaker basically used provenly false claims as his basis of “fact,” and then made wild leaps of extrapolation—or in some instances, just makes stuff up, to reach stunning conclusions to shock and impress/mislead the public. Having a science background and worked as a marine biologist in commercial aquaculture since the 1980s, I have first-hand experience in seeing good and bad examples of wild capture, aquaculture, marine mammal protection, and IUU,. Unfortunately throughout the piece the same formula was used—take superficial and examples of the worst case scenario, and generalize these horrendous acts as the “standard” in all of the seafood and aquaculture industry. It is very misleading to say the least.
From >40 years of working in the seafood industry, there is one principle I go by, and have taught my children: QUALITY is where it’s at. Good quality seafood is worth a lot, and poor quality seafood is unappetizing, gets people sick, and is worth nothing. In fact, in all of business and in life (especially in seafood), good quality products, work, and services last, whereas faulty and unethical practices never last. In many ways it’s a self-regulated industry. I often say, “you have to 20 things right out of 20 to be successful in this business.” It is literally impossible to produce quality seafood time after time if you don’t practice sustainable methods, and pay fair wages to your workers.
Without a doubt there are issues in all that the filmmaker brings up, but BY NO MEANS do they represent the wild and farmed seafood industry practices as a whole.
To give you an idea of the relative abundance and health of the stock of ranched Pacific bluefin from which Prime Time Seafood, and Riviera Seafood Club are supplied:
Sportsfishing in California and Mexico have also been experiencing by far the best bluefin tuna fishing in decades.
As a biologist involved in the tuna industry, there is OVERWHELMING history and evidence that through Marine Mammal Protection programs that have been in place since the 1970s, whale, dolphin, and sea loin populations have been growing for decades. Contrary to the film, nearly all pelagic dolphin species stocks are healthy.
Yes, as the film says, let’s follow the money.
In regards to bluefin tuna, the price of fresh, sashimi-qualty bluefin tuna has maintained at historically low levels since post Recession. The reason for that is simple: there is more supply than demand. At the same time there has been phenomenally strong rebuilding of the wild stock of bluefin tuna worldwide, due to extraordinary efforts from all parties involved.
Extremist environmental groups survive on donations. Donations from well-meaning people who are passionate about nature and the oceans. But the heartstrings and pocketbooks of the public can only be opened when “the sky’s falling…” The sky is NOT falling in regards to the future of fisheries and especially the future of aquaculture.
In reality, MANY of the world’s fisheries have been well-managed for many years—tuna being one of them.
Also, the resiliency of the fishes in our oceans can be quite astounding. Many fisheries have been properly managed from the brink of collapse. That is the power of many species like tuna, sardine, and other species that spawn millions of eggs. Unlike the film’s depiction of tigers and pandas, a panda does not spawn 10 million eggs…
The film focused on less than 5% of the wild fishery and aquaculture producers of the world, the worst offenders—to purposely produce a shocking piece of sensationalist journalism to create fear and hatred.
In the end, MY MESSAGE, from a seafood and aquaculture industry professional, is that like ALL the foods we chose to eat, I suggest you investigate the sources, the farms, the processors, the ingredients. As in most food industries, there are a majority of good players and a few bad players. Do your homework, or buy from purveyors that study and vet their sources.
What a travesty to purposely misrepresent a whole way of life for millions and millions of people throughout the world—people who CARE about the oceans, and have spent years, decades, lifetimes on the water, in TRUE dedication to the sea and the world.
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